28 September 2009

We used to own Belgium, you know

At first I was surprised by the number of Chimay signs hanging outside pubs in Madrid. I had expected little other than hot-country lager to be on sale. But but perhaps it shouldn't be any more surprising than the widespread availability of Cuban cigars or Argentinian beef in the former imperial capital.

The first pub we visited on arrival was Cafeeke, a small Belgian-themed bar as recommended by Ron. The menu ran to a very respectable 40 beers, between the draught and bottled selections, though you're only allowed try four on any one visit (!). Among them were two house beers, either contract brews or rebadges: I went for the witbier, called Misty Blanche after the bar's small yappy dog. It tasted more French than Belgian to me: very dry with an intense, and quite artificial, lemon flavour. Lacking body too. I assume they get this on the cheap.

The Te Deum beers, by Du Bocq, are quite commonplace in Madrid. The Blonde is slightly hazy with very nice balance of typical Belgian flavours: the rounded fruitiness coupled with a peppery spiciness. Strangely, the Amber (badged as "Rojo" in Cafeeke) also tasted quite blonde, with uncharacteristic lemony notes in the mahogany-red beer. A strange experience.

Oddly, there was barely a bottle of Duvel to be seen in Madrid. Strong blonde of choice is Judas, definitely a second rate alternative. It's palatable, but much drier and bitterer than the other infernally-monikered strong Belgian blondes of my acquaintance, and harder work to drink.

So that's a handful of Belgian beers in Spain for you. Next: Germany calling.


  1. Any explanation of why there's a 4 beer limit in that place? Is it in case you become a danger to yourself, or in case it induces vomiting?

  2. I suspect the Spanish have the same basic inability to drink as the Irish -- beer being seen as something to be chugged, regardless of the strength. I know of one pub in Ireland that had a two-drink limit on a strong beer it sold some years back. Whether Cafeeke has ever had any unpleasant incidents regarding its stronger beers or whether it's just the owner being overly cautious, I don't know.

    Personally, I'd rather see a sign that said "For fuck's sake, learn to drink".

  3. Is there a market for "learn to drink lessons"? Umm could be. I'll put an advert in Loot inviting people unable to cane it, to come along on a tutorial session around the rough bars and force them to practice necking strong lout until they either pass out or get with it. I shall call myself Professor Cookie.